4 Lessons Employers Can Learn From The Hiring and Firing of Ann Curry

DISC Personality and Behavior Assessment ProfileAnn Curry’s dismissal from the “Today” show epitomizes what goes wrong when an employer hires or promotes the wrong person into a job.

Curry was co-host with Matt Lauer for the past year. Formerly she was the show’s news anchor. Her parting words were “I’m sorry I couldn’t carry the ball over the finish line but, man, did I try.”

And that football analogy, along the lines of “get one for the Gipper” attitude, is the first mistake many managers make in recommending a hard-working, personable, dedicated employee for a job he or she is not suited.

What management failed to recognize or give enough credence to was team chemistry. With her recent predecessors Katie Couric and Meredith Vieira, the show rose to be number one in its class. Couric and Vieira had great chemistry with Lauer and supporting cast members like Curry. But being the catalyst for great chemistry and being an ingredient are worlds apart in the world of employee selection. It’s the difference between inspirational leaders and cheerleaders. Many leaders are great cheerleaders but the same can’t be said for the reverse.

It wasn’t that Curry lacked the skills for the job. She’s smart, empathetic, and likeable. In fact, her credentials from “60 Minutes” and “The View” deemed her worthy of promotion after Couric left several years ago. She was passed over for Vieira. But Vieira’s departure opened the door again and management apparently felt Curry deserved a chance.

But good job fit isn’t something employers want to leave to chance. Hiring or promoting the right employee entails so much more than just the ability and knowledge to do the job. Hiring the right employee requires fit with the team and culture too.

I’ll guess and give Curry an “A” for culture fit. But her team fit was just ok – maybe a C+/B-. It wasn’t that she wasn’t a good team player – from all accounts she was. But the chemistry between her and Lauer was never the same as her predecessors. Ignoring that chemistry during the employee selection process – or thinking time would allow it to work out – doomed Curry and knocked the “Today” show out of the number one slot after 852 weeks of beating “Good Morning America.”

Taking good team fit to greatness is what the “Today” show needed to stay on top. Management erred in thinking that Vieira’s departure left just another slot to fill. Curry ably filled the slot but the chemistry her predecessors developed was lost. Going back to Curry’s football analogy, one super-star doesn’t make a great team unless there is chemistry. That’s why an average player on one team becomes the standout on another. And the arrogant superstar who jumps ship for more money may languish in mediocrity on another team.

Don’t forget timing and the competition too. Just a few years ago, NBC might have retained its number one position compared to what was happening on the rival networks. But Good Morning America stepped up its game and was in the right position at the right time.

In hindsight, promoting Curry into the co-host position wasn’t a terrible decision. It is repeated many thousands of times each day in companies around the country – reward and promote the most deserving employee from within the company without giving good team chemistry the priority it deserves. The decision just wasn’t the right one and could have been avoided.

What lessons can employers learn from Curry’s rise and fall:

1. Longevity and loyalty and even individual skills are not a guarantee for success in future roles.

2. Team fit is more than filling a slot with a qualified worker; it is chemistry among and between each team member that converts a team from good to great.

3. Don’t rest on your laurels. What got you to number one and worked in the past might not be good enough as markets and competitors constantly change.

4. Assessing good team chemistry is an art and science. The art aspect inherently throws accurate assessment a curve ball. But an integrated approach to employment testing can help remove a lot of the guesswork and provide employers a much better chance of hiring employees who can do the job and elevate the team.

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.

How Safe Are Personality Tests?

Many people still believe personality tests are illegal and that their use exposes an How Safe Are Personality Tests?employer to more risk. But a new research paper titled Legal Risk in Selection: An analysis of processes and tools presented at the Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology conference dispels many of the lingering myths associated with using personality and other employee tests.

The research findings reviewed EEOC and OFCCP cases settled both in and out of court between 1998 and 2010. Two key areas were covered: (1) type of selection test and (2) the hiring process.

Based on the findings, personality and other psychometric tests do carry some risk. But in nearly every case, the challenge did not involve the validity or reliability of the test but how the assessment was used. For example, according to Dr. Charles Handler, one of the most respected authorities on employee selection, “Cases that went to trial around selection devices were decided for the plaintiff only 28% of the time, vs. 68% for those related to the selection process, meaning that process issues are more likely to land an employer in hot water.”

Cases related to inconsistent process accounted for the largest percentage of all process related cases and over half of these were settled prior to court. A whopping 91% of all inconsistent process cases were found to be discriminatory.

Some examples of process related cases that were lost include:

  • In Dennis v Columbia Colleton Medical Center (2002), the U.S. Court of Appeals described the hospital’s selection process as “a peculiarly informal process” because their explanations for not hiring the plaintiff were different from the written job description, giving the decision “a flavor of post-hoc rationalizations.”
  • In Dunlap v Tennessee Valley Authority (2008), the court determined the company’s hiring process was discriminatory because they found 70 counts of manipulating test scores and changing interview and test scores in candidate rankings.
  • In Allen v Tobacco Superstore (2007), the company relied on word of mouth to publicize open positions and had no consistent procedures for advancement; employees simply asked a supervisor to be considered. The court found the word-of-mouth hiring and promotion process – which resulted in a company-wide dearth of Black store managers despite operating in communities with large Black populations – was discriminatory.

Here’s a checklist of things HR and hiring managers must do to lower the risk of discrimination and improve the success of their hiring process.

1. Use a structured interview. According to Dr. Handler, “if you are not using a structured interview process, you have a problem.” I couldn’t agree more. The casual, off-the-cuff interview is not only poor risk management but not very predictable when selecting employees.

2. Be consistent. Interview questions must be consistent with job relatedness. Even if the interview questions are structured and managers trained in behavioral interviewing, it doesn’t mean the questions are job related (Dennis v Columbia Colleton Medical Center (2002). The same goes for the job board ad or word of mouth referral programs you use. If you write an ad or ask a question related to a responsibility or skill that is not required for the job, you open the door wider for adverse impact claims to step in.

3. Remain objective. Pre-employment testing  IS legal. It’s also a best practice with positive results reported time and time again. Testing is not an astrology or voodoo-like experience but a scientifically proven practice that leads to better hiring results without increasing the risk of adverse discrimination.

Using pre-employment tests for the right reasons (job-relatedness) is the equivalent of having a skilled, unbiased, third party manager interview candidates. Many pre-employment assessments also include job-related interview questions, based on candidate results. These questions structure the interview and keep the focus on job-relatedness.

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.


Disorganized Workers Cost Employers Time and Money

Cluttered desks, disorganized email folders, and lost files seem to be taken for granted in the workplace. But all that time searching for lost information and playing phone tag adds up to a lot of costly, unproductive time.

For example:

  • The average American spends almost 4 minutes searching for lost keys, television remote controls, mobile telephones, and other items every time one of the little suckers sprouts legs and walks off.
  • Four minutes may not sound like a long time, but the minutes add up. If a person misplaces his wallet once every week, he would spend 3.5 hours each year trying to hunt the darn thing down.
  • Americans who consider themselves as “extremely organized” spend as little as 1 minute and 18 seconds finding misplaced items while adults who say they are not organized at all take up to 8.5 minutes to locate a missing item.
  • In the average small business, each staff member spends at least 3 to 5 hours per week looking for information. At an hourly rate of $12 per hour that adds up to over $2,800 per employee per annum. Even worse, can you afford to hire and retain employees who spend 15 percent of their work week looking for misplaced information?

Even with widespread computer usage, 70% of all documentation remains paper based. The average usable life-span of a document is only 30 to 90 days. Often they are never accessed again after this time. Office space is at a premium though – and the more files you have the more space required which leaves less space for additional staff members to grow your business and/or higher rent for storage space.

Disorganization might be ignored if it wasn’t for the big price tag hidden beneath the piles. If you cannot answer a client’s request immediately, the cost is staggering and frightening! Did you know that telephone tag costs could cost you more than $6,500 per employee in unproductive time even if that employee spends only one hour on the phone daily.

And possibly the most expensive is the 25% of all clients who are lost due to poor response to requests. If you have 1,000 clients, then you’re losing on average 250 clients a year, at a costs ranging from $25,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Organization is an essential competency. With more demands being placed on limited resources in nearly every organization today, time wasted finding and re- finding information costs lots of money. With cutbacks, resignations and retirements, critical information is walking out the door every day. Adding employee  screening tests for organizational skills could improve productivity and add dollars to the bottom line.

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.

Employee Turnover On The Rise.

Employee turnover rates will be slightly higher this year compared to a year ago according to the just released Convenience Store News 2011 HR & Labor Study. 

Turnover is nothing new to convenience store retailers. Historically high employee turnover was treated as a fact of life and absorbed almost as a fixed expense. But this year stiffer competition for good workers from other businesses is adding to voluntary and involuntary termination. To become more competitive, many retailers have increased salaries and benefits for their store level workers, according to the study. 

Convenient stores aren’t the only businesses facing higher turnover. Employee turnover at restaurants is on the rise, according to the latest People Report Workforce Index (PRWI). For the first quarter of 2011, the PRWI found that 47 percent of surveyed companies reported increases in hourly worker turnover and 49 percent recorded higher management turnover. 

“We’re entering the era of the disengaged as many employees seek alternatives elsewhere,” said Bob Kelleher, CEO of The Employee Engagement Group. Recent research from Glassdoor.com’s employment confidence survey supports Kelleher’s views.

According to the survey, 73 percent of employees say they will leave their job in the future and more than one in three expect to do so within the next three years. 

Additionally, MetLife’s 9th annual study of employee benefits trends found that employees hope to land a new job in the next 12 months as employee loyalty wanes. “Very strong” employee loyalty, according to the study, plunged to 47 percent from 59 percent just three years ago. 

Kelleher also projected that businesses will not simply return to their pre-recession turnover levels. For instance, if a company’s traditional voluntary turnover dropped from 15 percent to 5 percent, the 10 percent of the workforce that didn’t leave during the past year is now in queue, and will be in addition to the traditional 15 percent voluntary turnover. 

The cost of turnover is expensive. The loss of an employee for any reason hits the bottom line and not in a good way. Replacing an employee not only requires time, money, and resources but it requires more sales to recoup the loss. For example, the loss from just one crew member in a fast food restaurant required the sales of an additional 7,613 children’s combo meals at $2.50 each. A clothing store has to sell almost 3,000 pairs of khakis at $35 to recoup the loss of one sales clerk. 

Convenience stores and fast food restaurants restaurants (as well as every business in every industry) must prepare for higher turnover and employee disengagement as the economy improves and the unemployment rate declines. 

Employee turnover is not a cost of business than can be absorbed. Studies by American Management Association and others report a range between 25 percent and 250 percent of annual salary per exiting employee. While entry-level, lesser skilled positions are at the lower end of the cost range, turnover at these positions cannot be ignored. 

A 2010 study by the Canadian Grocery Human Resource Council pegged the cost of turnover for the front line, part time grocery clerk at $1,300. While $1,300 might not seem like a lot, consider that when turnover is in the mid to high 30 percent range (which it is for many grocery stores), a store has to sell between $32,5000 and $65,000 in groceries to recover that cost (assuming a 2 to 4 percent net margin.) 

The costs of employee turnover however can be tamed by implementing best practice solutions which include honesty and integrity tests, pre-employment personality job fit tests for convenience stores and fast food restaurants (hospitality), and employee training.


This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.

7 Reasons Why Employees Fail

If you ask 100 managers explain why employees fail, you will likely get at least 101 different answers. But once you remove all the smoke, mirrors, theories, and old wives tales, there are really only seven reasons. 

1. Lack of Technical Skills/Knowledge. Everywhere you turn these days it seems you read and hear about the shortage of skilled workers and the Baby Boomer brain drain. A lack of skills and experience may prevent a candidate from being hired but is far from the most common reason, an employee is terminated. In fact, most employers seems to be overly tolerant of under- and unskilled employees they like.

2. Cognitive Skill Mismatch. Cognitive skills, or general mental abilities, are playing an ever-increasing role in employee performance. Unfortunately, few employers recognize or understand how important they are. But human nature tends to want to hire “really smart people” even when the job doesn’t require it or the culture support it. That just leads to early boredom and frustration. Just as common a mistake is underestimating the role cognitive skills play when an employee is up for a promotion. A very capable supervisor with average or even low abilities might fail as a manager because the new role requires them to manage a more complex environment and respond at a faster pace. Going forward, more employees will fail if cognitive skills are ignored.

3. Poor Personality Fit. At the core of every human being are key personality traits that determine how people respond to competition, initiative, conflict, flexibility, traditions and organizational policy, large groups of people, mental toughness, curiosity and more. Research shows that these traits predispose many workers toward a “natural” competence in areas such as drive for results, follow-through, detail-orientation, planning and organizing, interpersonal skills and stress management. Mismatches between a proven “best-fit” profile for the job and the individual in the job leads to significantly higher incidences of turnover, poor performance and stress.

4. Poor Behavioral Style Fit. Behavioral styles predict no more and no less than how an individual will behave in the workplace. It doesn’t predict success or competence but the way people will respond to (or ignore) problems, people, pace of the environment and procedures. Mismatches between job and personal styles and inter-personal styles don’t necessarily guarantee failure but do ensure that stress and conflict will eventually show its ugly and costly face. How an individual learns to adapt and a manager learns to respond ultimately determines if harnessing the energy of behavioral style will boom or doom employee performance.

5. Poor Values Fit (Motivation).While people can learn to adapt behavioral styles, adjusting personal values, or motivators, is not so easy. In fact, people generally don’t change what’s most important in their lives without some life-altering event like the death of a loved one, a personal tragedy, starting a family, divorce and so on. When values collide, some people will adjust their behaviors to reduce conflict between other people or the job. But with time, the tension between different values wins out. Workers then decide to leave the job or fight for their cause. In either case, the cost to the employer (and many times the health of the employee) is enormous. Selecting individuals who are motivated by the job and/or company culture is just one way to make sure employees expend their energy on productivity not conflict.

6. Poor Team Fit. While team fit is a very common cause of employee failure, it is really cited as the reason. But it has been my experience and contention that fit on a team trumps job fit any day. A highly skilled employee who doesn’t mesh with the team for any number of reasons either will be driven out of an organization by conflicting co-workers or the co-workers themselves might leave. In either case, the effectiveness of a competent employee will never be realized if he or she doesn’t fit on the team.

7. Poor Cultural Fit. Team and cultural fit may be synonymous for small business. But in larger organizations, a highly skilled individual can become a lost soul if his personal values clash with the culture. It could be as simple as the employee wanting the opportunity to climb the career ladder but the path to do this is reserved for a chosen few. Or it could be the Fortune 500 executive who accepts a position in a non-profit organization. Competence and experience don’t have a chance to shine if the culture suffocates it. More commonly, value differences over faith, politics, or management style can easily turn a high performing employee into a failure.

So there you have it – the seven reasons employees fail. Now the question becomes” what can an employer do to prevent these failures.”

One of the most efficacious things a company can do is match people to jobs, teams and cultures. Hire, promote, and build teams that play to employee skills, behavioral style, motivations and values respectively. Making these good employee job matches requires that managers possess rich and detailed information about their employees and candidates. Pre-employment and professional development assessments are not only cost effective, valid, and legal but also a prerequisite for recruiting, retaining, and engaging employees.

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.